M/Cing to South America: The Bike
We Build Our Own Version of an Around the World Motorcycle
Once we decided that we were going to ride a motorcycle around the world, I started thinking about what kind of motorcycle would be right. I came away from the Horizons Unlimited meeting thinking that our 1995 Honda Pacific Coast, “Broken Arrow,” would fit the bill in many respects: we were comfortable on it, it held a lot of things, we’d traveled all over North America on it, and it was as reliable as a tractor. Broken Arrow fit HU’s answer to the “what bike to take?” question: “ANY bike can do it, it’s up to you.”
Then we went to Kathmandu, Nepal and ended up renting a little Indian 200 cc two-stroke motorcycle for four days. It was probably the most challenging motorcycle riding I’ve ever done (with the possible exception of going over the Andes during the Dakar rally last year). Traffic was omnipresent; trucks, cars, bicycles, and motorcycles all tried to squeeze into incredibly tight spaces. All of this required manhandling the bike in too many ways to describe. This experience changed my thinking about what would make a great adventure bike: small size became the most important criteria, lightness was an absolute necessity, speed was not very important on small back roads in third world countries. Yet, it still had to fit two people and all our stuff.
So, I decided to buy, build and/or configure a bike with the following attributes.
- It had to be small. I need to get my feet firmly o the ground in order to deal with slow-speed, hard to maneuver situations. I’m 5’5” on a good day.
- It had to be light. Broken Arrow is 600+ pounds
- It had to carry two people and all the stuff we’d need for a long trip
- It had to be configurable as an ATW bike – availability of accessories/equipment needed to make it work
- It needed at least a 200 mile range. Broken Arrow would only go 140 miles per tank full
Testing, testing, testing
The next month was one of the best of my life. Think about this: after 13 years of riding Broken Arrow, we were going to buy a new motorcycle specifically for an ATW adventure from a clean sheet of paper! We considered anything that remotely made sense: various Kawasakis, the Suzuki V-Strom, KTMs and a gaggle of BMWs. After every excursion, KR would get on the Internet and do research. At night, we’d compare the pros and cons of our choice.
It finally came down to either a BMW F800GS (Twin) or its less powerful, wimpier brother BMW F650GS (Twin). Both bikes used the same engine, had the same displacement, the same frame, etc., etc.
We finally decided to go with the wimpy one because all the F650GS’ pros were important to us and all the F800GS pros weren’t. We weren’t going bush-bashing off road, I didn’t want to hassle with tubes, I wasn’t sure if premium fuel would be available so the F800GS would need to be detuned anyway, and I couldn’t possibly reach the ground even with a lowered F800GS. And I knew we’d use the $2000 for more accessories.
“Now Voyager” arrives on the scene
On January 31 2009, four months after we ordered her, our 2009 BMW F650GS arrived at Ventura BMW. The basic specifications of the bike included:
- Lowered suspension
- On-board computer
- Heated grips
- Handlebar protectors
- Upgraded fairing
- The Tire Pressure Management Gauge
- No ABS
- In Silver
We named the bike, “Now Voyager,” after Karen’s favorite movie. The movie takes its name from a Walt Whitman poem, “The Untold Want” which reads…” The untold want by life and land ne’er granted/Now voyager sail thou forth to seek and find.”
Hang in there Freddie, and Karen. It will all work out – one way or the other. Keep me tuned. Via con dios. Vic